The American spy wife Anne Sacoolas, who President Donald Trump tried to force on the grieving parents of the British teenager she accidentally killed in August, may face justice in Britain after all.
The first time many Americans heard of the case that has gripped the U.K. since last summer was last month when Trump hid Sacoolas in a back room in the White House while he received Dunn’s parents and plotted a reality-TV-style moment for the cameras.
Sacoolas had left the U.K. in early September under diplomatic immunity against the wishes of the British Foreign Office and had not been seen since. Trump summoned Dunn’s parents to Washington, D.C., while they were on a media tour in the U.S. to try to pressure her into returning to Britain to face justice. Dunn’s parents had said they would only meet Sacoolas on British soil under their terms–and with counselors and lawyers in the room. When Trump said the woman who killed their son was ready to meet them, Dunn’s parents refused, saying they felt “ambushed” by Trump’s “henchmen” led by National Security Adviser Robert C. O’Brien, who they said “snarled” at them, telling them Sacoolas “would never return” to the U.K.
The Dunns have kept up the pressure through constant media appearances, and it looks like it might be working. Lawyers for Anne Sacoolas, 42, have been in secret talks with British officials after officers investigating the vehicular homicide of 19-year-old Harry Dunn traveled to the U.S. last week to interview her about the incident.
The still “informal” talks, first reported by The Guardian and confirmed by The Daily Beast, are said to entail negotiations about a plea deal that would keep Sacoolas, a mother of three, from serving prison time if convicted in Dunn’s wrongful death.
Sacoolas admits to driving down the wrong side of the road after pulling out of the RAF Croughton intelligence base where her husband was stationed in late August when she ploughed into 19-year-old Dunn on his Kawasaki motorcycle.
Dunn’s parents have not been officially informed or included in the talks. “The family are aware of this report but have heard nothing formal from the police or Crown Prosecution Services,” Radd Seiger, a spokesman for the Dunn family, told The Daily Beast. “Until Mrs. Sacoolas returns to the U.K. and submits herself to the legal process the campaign for justice for Harry continues.”
Pressure from the highest levels of the U.K. government has mounted on the United States to send Sacoolas back to Britain. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson brought up the matter personally with Trump and the government’s extradition experts have hinted to several British media outlets that they would be willing to hold up the extradition of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, currently in a British jail, if Sacoolas does not face justice on British soil.
The Dunn family hopes that is not the case. “We don’t know anything about the Assange matter, but in our view they are entirely separate and unrelated matters, so should have no bearing on our case,” Seiger told The Daily Beast.
Last week, Trump told Nigel Farage on the Leading Britain’s Conversation radio program that he would “study the facts of the case” but stopped short of making any promise to send Sacoolas back. “I’d have to see what the final facts are,” Trump told Farage. “And then I’ll take a look at the final facts.”
Dunn survived a few hours after the accident but later died of his injuries. Sacoolas initially cooperated with police, taking a breathalyzer test and answering initial investigative questions before she invoked diplomatic immunity and fled to the U.S., reportedly on an American Air Force jet. Her lawyers say she comforted Dunn as he lay in the ditch and waited near him until the ambulance came, even as one of her own young children who witnessed the accident waited in her SUV.
The Dunn family was not told that Sacoolas left the country for more than a week after she was gone. Lawyers for the Dunn family have argued that Sacoolas did not qualify for diplomatic immunity and, now that she is back stateside, is certainly no longer under such protection and therefore open to extradition.
“We don’t think she has ever had diplomatic immunity and there is no bar to extradition,” the Dunn’s lawyer Mark Stephens told reporters last week. “It’s the morally right thing and legally right thing to extradite her.”
The Dunn family, including Harry’s twin brother, Niall, have engaged in an emotional media campaign and legal battle to try to put pressure on the U.S. government to send Sacoolas back. “When we were told Anne Sacoolas had diplomatic immunity, it was a punch in the face,” Niall Dunn told Sky News. “‘Tough, she’s not coming back, end of story. Go away and cry at home.’ That’s what it really did feel like... I’m angry at the higher-ups of the world who just don’t seem to care at all about what’s happening.”
Dunn’s family is suing the British foreign secretary and have asked for a parliamentary review into why the government kept information about Sacoolas’ departure from them. They have also called for a review of diplomatic immunity procedures and practices, insisting that Sacoolas’ alleged crime did not qualify for immunity.
The Foreign Office has denied any wrongdoing. “We have done everything we can properly do to clear a path so that justice can be done for Harry’s family,” they said in a statement. “As the foreign secretary set out in parliament, the individual involved had diplomatic immunity whilst in the country under the Vienna convention on diplomatic relations. We will respond to any legal action in due course.”
The Dunn camp is also suing the Trump administration and Sacoolas for damages. “We are bringing claims against both Mrs. Sacoolas in the U.S. for civil damages as well as the Trump administration for their lawless misconduct and attempt to cover that up,” the Dunn family spokesperson said in a statement to The Daily Beast regarding the lawsuits. “No one is above the law and the family are determined to ensure that this never happens to another family again. It will be Harry’s memorial. His legacy.”
The family continues to insist that they do not want to see Sacoolas in prison. Still, they say they cannot move forward until the person responsible for killing their son and brother has faced justice back in the U.K. “It would be a way for everybody to get closure,” Stephens said. “The family want to get closure, but in everything they do they are being frustrated.”